July 13, 2005
Grow Your Own Meat
Coming to your kitchen: the ability to grow your own steaks and pork chops from cultured cells.
University of Maryland doctoral student Jason Matheny and colleagues report in the new issue of the journal Tissue Engineering that they have identified two different techniques each of which can create products that taste like beef, chicken, pork and fish with the nutrients and texture of the real thing.
Sound like sci–fi?
Hey, booboo, it is sci–fi but guess what: we're living in a sci–fi world.
That Barbie world is so 20th century.
LLT, that one's for you. But I digress.
One process used by the Maryland team involves growing animal muscle and fat cells on thin membranes stretched over large flat sheets and removing the meatlike material and stacking it together to create a thicker "cut" of meat.
The second consists of growing cells on small three–dimensional beads that stretch as the temperature changes, then harvesting them to make processed meat similar to nuggets or hamburgers.
Matheny said in a news release quoted in a Washington Post story by Marc Kaufman, "The challenge is getting the texture right. We have to figure out how to 'exercise' the muscle cells. For the right texture, you have to stretch the tissue, like a live animal would."
Hey, Jason: throw a slab on the Joba and you'll be good to go for the grill. But I digress again.
I wonder: would vegetarians convert after hearing this new "no animal was harmed in making this Chateaubriand" pitch?
And think of the many benefits: no more messy waste or pollution, higher nutrient content, no killing, and guaranteed free of mad cow or any other food–borne disease.
Matheny noted, "With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world's annual meat supply."
A note on the pixels: How bookofjoe happens
As I've noted here in the past, I've always been drawn to that very last page in a book that contains "A note on the type."
In that spirit, then, let me take you behind the curtain to reveal that the emperor indeed has no clothes — or, to be more accurate, an awful lot of pajamas.
Otto von Bismarck, the "Iron Chancellor," famously said, "Law are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."
To which I would append, "As with your favorite blog."
Because it's not pretty.
But never one to shy away from unpleasantness, let's take the plunge, shall we?
First of all, when does he create it?
When does he write the material?
The answer to that question is, "It depends."
As I have mentioned from time to time, I do continue to pass gas (administer anesthesia in lay terms) from time to time in order to support this habit and my many other expensive tastes, running from rims that cost a quarter million dollars a set to John Galliano tie–die crocodile detective bags that run $18,000 and up.
Of course, I know very well that the best things in life are free.
But I digress.
When I work in Richmond as an anesthesiologist I'm not a happy camper.
Because I find the observation, "Work is what you're doing when you'd rather be doing something else," very apropos during that period.
I'm living in a hotel room, I don't have my wonderful 17" iMac (G4 running Panther 10.3.9, but not for much longer...) but instead a 15" PowerBook and in general my days are much more subject to the whims of others such as surgeons and patients.
So it is very difficult to do much more than simply check on bookofjoe, make sure it's going up more or less on schedule, delete the spam comments, and deal with my email.
Creating posts is very tedious and I don't do it unless absolutely necessary when I'm away from home.
Therefore, every single post that appears during the week I work as an anesthesiologist — all 56 of them (8/day x 7 days) are pre–written, in some cases as much as three weeks before they are scheduled to appear.
I find it interesting that invariably I get more favorable backscatter on things that go up pre–posted (and therefore pre–written) than on my daily, more contemporaneous productions.
Full disclosure, while we're on topic: I started writing this particular post at 11:18 a.m. this morning.
One of the reasons I chose TypePad to be my blog's host is that it is one of the few that allow advance posting, as much as a year ahead.
Sometimes I muse on the fact that I could be dead when you read this and neither of us would know it.
My favorite way of doing bookofjoe is to make it happen sort of contemporaneously, that is, creating the next day's post today while posts are going up, i.e., between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. my time.
That way I can work events of the day into the blog as well as respond in real time to comments and emails, of which I get a ton, with a sharp uptick since Monday's post entitled "I can keep a secret."
I love the attachments.
Some are breathtaking.
You know who you are.
But I digress again.
Now that I'm done with the body of this post it's time to do things that complete the package as I deliver it to you.
They are: add photos and graphics and then create links to make this post a gateway instead of an endpoint.
To the extent you open the world and offer egress, you enrich your own life.
I'm a firm believer in the dictum, "Love is the only thing you get more of by giving it away."
Now to the pictures and links.
OK — pictures and links have been inserted, then I had a look at the post as completed and found and corrected four mistakes.
All the links work, the pictures are where I want them and so this post is now complete: it's exactly 12:13 p.m. Wednesday.
But wait — there's one more thing: one last proofreading.
Total elapsed time to create this post = 55 minutes.
Something to think about before embarking on your blog.
BehindTheMedspeak: Horseback–Riding Exercise Machine
From Japan's Nagoya University and the wizards of Matsushita Electric Works (you know them as Panasonic) comes this formidable new approach to working out.
They call it the Joba (above and below).
Don't go there. But I digress.
I have long suspected that riding can be an excellent form of physical exercise, as well as being quite good for the spirit and soul: the new machine's inventors have taken it to the next level.
Long story short: Glucose metabolic rate after 30 minutes on Joba equals that after one hour of walking.
That should be all you need to know for you to decide to take it to the next level. But I digress.
The results of the Joba investigation were reported in September of last year at the 58th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine, held in Shizuoka Prefecture.
The paper was entitled "Effect of Acute Exercise Using Automatic Fitness Machine (Joba) on Glucose Metabolism."
Read the full story here.
bookofjoba — I like it.
"These cards stick to the game board but not to each other."
How do you think they do it
What makes them so good?
Yes, it's still all "Tommy" all the time here; I'm now well into day 6 of endless replay with no limit in sight — but I digress.
- From the magnetic cards website:
Our Magnetic Card Game is perfect to play with outdoors, even on the windiest of days.
The cards have metal foil in between their plastic–coated faces and backs, while the game board is made with a magnet underneath the surface.
Card case included.
Board measures 20" x 20" x 0.25".
Not recommended as part of your airline carry–on gear.
Don't say I didn't warn you when you're asked to step into the little room.
Truffles: Episode 2 — 'The most important thing is the relationship with the dog'
In this past Sunday's New York Times Travel section Denny Lee wrote that "truffles (above) can fetch upward of $4,000 a pound ($1,818 per kg) in the global gourmet market.
With my handy–dandy calculator here I see that's over $250 an ounce ($1.82 per gram).
So perhaps you can understand why I'm more than delighted with my truffle salt (below),
purchased recently here for $22 for a 3.5 oz bottle.
A little goes a very long way, so much so that the morning after I've made popcorn and then sprinkled truffle salt on it, the bowl and kitchen are still redolent of truffles.
Anyway, Sunday's article related the tale of Lee's exhausting 2–hour hike through the woods with an experienced truffle hunter and his dog near San Giovanni d'Asso, a sleepy village in Tuscany about 25 miles southeast of Siena.
Last November the town opened Italy's first museum of the truffle, called the Museo del Tartufo di San Giovanni d'Asso.
Being Italian, it keeps Italian hours: it's open on weekends from 10 to 1 and 2 to 6.
The museum is housed in a 13th–century castle overlooking a rustic valley.
Lee ended his story with a comment from Fosco Lorenzotti, 62, a truffle hunter for 30 years: "I get tired of looking for truffles sometimes, but I never tire of eating them."
Here's the Times story.
- In a Drowsy Tuscan Village, It's Truffles That Arouse Interest
Sniffing through the dank woods of Tuscany, Ugo, a truffle-hunting dog, paused before a pine tree, dug his paws into the crunchy soil and darted off.
"Vieni! Vieni!" Luciano Tognazzi shouted.
But it was too late.
The truffle had become the world's most expensive doggy treat.
Not to worry, said Mr. Tognazzi, 45, a stocky truffle hunter with dark curly hair and a broad nose.
He pointed to a dark forest in the distance.
"There are plenty of truffles there."
They are plentiful, yes, but hard to find.
Truffles, which resemble knobby potatoes and taste like fermented mushrooms, are often buried under a foot of dirt, masking their pungent, knock-your-socks-off aroma.
Some have likened the smell to primal musk, with hints of garlic, overripe cheese and ozone.
To others, they smell like gold: truffles can fetch upward of $4,000 a pound in the global gourmet market.
That heady scent, however, proved elusive on this hot afternoon in late March.
There were no truffles in the oak forest, none by the sheep farm and the broom shrubs were picked clean.
Unearthing a truffle, it turns out, takes plenty of patience, not to mention luck and comfortable hiking shoes.
It wasn't the hoped-for gastronomic bonanza, but at least it wasn't a touristy affair.
In Alba, Italy's truffle capital, in the northwestern province of Piedmont, demand for the fungi has spawned a cottage industry of package tours, food festivals and a strip mall of truffle-themed shops. (Truffle ice cream, anyone?)
Meanwhile, the cognoscenti are converging on the less-trampled truffle paths around the sleepy village of San Giovanni d'Asso, about 25 miles southeast of Siena in the cypress-studded hills of Tuscany.
While Tuscan truffles lack the brand-name recognition of those from Alba, San Giovanni d'Asso also lacks the circus atmosphere that can result in overpricing and overhunting.
And the quality, some say, is just as odoriferous.
"The truffles here are very, very, very good," said Leonardo Terzigli, a truffle trader from Florence, who goes door to door buying truffles in San Giovanni d'Asso for several high-end restaurants in London, including Locanda Locatelli.
"Truffles don't like pollution and, as you can see, there's nothing here."
Nothing, that is, except for luscious wheat fields, crumpled clay hills and the ribboned vineyards of the Sangiovese grape, which is used to make two of Italy's finest wines: Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Perched on a craggy hilltop, San Giovanni d'Asso is also nothing like Cortona, the Tuscan village lovingly chronicled - some say ruined - by the writer Frances Mayes.
There are no postcard or craft stores, just a butcher shop that keeps irregular hours, a tobacco store and a hole-in-the-wall cafe that offers half-day truffle excursions.
The trifolau (truffle hunter) will sometimes plant a tuber to ensure an entertaining hunt.
Last November, in a bid to elevate its truffle stature, the village of 940 opened the country's first museum dedicated to the food.
"Nobody heard of us before," said Michele Boscaglia, the town's 35-year-old mayor.
"Now we have more beds for tourists than for residents."
Mr. Boscaglia gave a tour of the trattoria-sized museum, housed in a 13th-century castle overlooking the rustic valley.
He had a firm grasp of the contents, which included three fist-sized replicas of truffles cast from resin and a device that emits a synthetic truffle perfume.
Like most able-bodied men in the village, he goes hunting in his spare time, just as his father did, and his grandfather before that.
But fungi foraging can easily graduate into a full-time pursuit.
The season lasts 11 months, from June to April.
The summer black truffle appears on menus in early June.
The prized white truffle, sometimes called the white diamond of Italy, grows from September to December.
And the late spring saw the waning days of the bianchetti truffle, a milder cousin of the white truffle that is found widely in Tuscany.
Regardless of the season, skillful hunters keep their mental treasure maps up to date.
They also learn to worship the waxing moon, which supposedly draws out the truffle's scent, and ignore the lightning storms, which, according to myth, trigger the growth of the spores.
And they become intimate with their hounds.
"The most important thing is the relationship with the dog," said Mr. Tognazzi, the truffle hunter, who has four Lagotto Romagnolos, the preferred breed in the area. (Below, the truffle–hunting Lagotto dog Susi with his owner, Simone Francini).
Rivalry for top dog is fierce: every few years, several Lagottos are poisoned by strychnine-laced sausages, presumably left by unsportsmanlike hunters.
"For the truffle dogs to be exceptional," Mr. Tognazzi continued, "you have to hunt everyday."
Ugo, a shaggy white five-year-old, clearly needed a refresher on another Saturday.
After scouring a hillside, Ugo led three visitors down a muddy path, before running away at the sight of a wild boar track.
It had been a disappointing season, Mr. Tognazzi said.
Then again, truffle hunters are the alter egos of fishermen: instead of telling fanciful tales about the big one that got away, they always report returning empty-handed, the better to avoid taxes and the envy of neighbors.
Mr. Tognazzi, however, was determined not to let his customers down.
After an exhausting two-hour hike, he finally drove to one of his secret spots, a sun-dappled pine forest at the edge of a farm.
Then he let Ugo off his leash.
Mr. Tognazzi cajoled, commanded, praised and reprimanded him in a rapid staccato: "Dove?" (Where?), "Cos'è?" (What is it?), "Bravo ragazzo" (Good boy), "Fai la finita" (Stop that).
Ugo snapped to attention like a lion on the prowl and started digging furiously under a towering pine.
"Piano, piano," (Slowly, slowly), Mr. Tognazzi cried, pushing Ugo away with a gentle shove.
With a stout gardening hoe known as a vanghetta, he scooped out a clod of brown soil, revealing an orange-beige truffle the size of a walnut.
He reached into his vest pocket and gave Ugo a kibble.
"Bravo," he said.
Ugo was on a roll.
He sniffed out three more truffles over the next hour, ranging in size from chickpea to garlic clove.
On the short drive back to town in his Fiat, Mr. Tognazzi insisted on giving away the day's paltry catch.
With the prize in hand, a victory lap was made to the local supermarket to pick out ingredients for a truffle-centered meal.
In keeping with Tuscan tradition, the courses would be simple: baked eggs with shaved truffles; buttered tagliatellini tossed with truffles; and a grilled T-bone steak served over arugula and drizzled with truffles.
There wasn't enough to experiment with truffle ice cream.
As night fell, the kitchen at a nearby bed-and-breakfast began filling with the tantalizing and precious aroma: slightly earthy, a touch nutty and, as the Romans once described it, vaguely sexual.
It brought to mind something that another trifolau had said.
"I get tired of looking for truffles sometimes," said Fosco Lorenzetti, 62, a hunter for 30 years.
"But I never tire of eating them."
San Giovanni d'Asso is about 150 miles north of Rome and 75 miles south of Florence. In late June, flights in mid-July to Rome from New York started at about $1,200.
Where to Stay
La Locanda del Castello, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, 4, (39-0577) 802 939, on the Web at www.lalocandadelcastello.com, has seven rooms and three suites ranging from $135 to $185, including breakfast.
Ankhura, (39-0577) 802 943, www.ankhura.com, in the adjacent hamlet of Monterongriffoli, has four rustic-style rooms for $123 including breakfast. It also offers Tuscan cooking classes.
Half-day truffle excursions for $49, at $1.23 to the euro, are offered by Assotartufi, (39-0577) 803 076, www.assotartufi.com, at Via XX Settembre, 22. Nearby bed-and-breakfasts also can arrange for hunts.
The Museo del Tartufo di San Giovanni d'Asso, Piazza Gramsci, 1, is open on weekends from 10 to 1 and 2 to 6. Admission is $3.70. For more information: (39-0577) 803 101; www.museodeltartufo.it.
Bed Shaker Phone Signaler Alarm Clark
Never get a good night's sleep again.
That's the promise of this tricked–out, amped–up bedside terror.
• Built–in telephone signaler — "never miss a call again"
• Flashing lights and loud sound along with powerful bed shaker alert you to the telephone ringing or alarm
"Complete with a hi/low dimmer switch to sleep better at night."
Yes, that should make for a most restful slumber.
If you're not miserable enough already in bed you might want to add this to your already–formidable nightstand.
Once again I bring you something I don't understand but you might.
"Booxter is an easy–to–use application to help you manage your book collection."
Huh — that's sort of like offering me a satellite navigation system for my car: somehow I manage to get where I'm going without a whole lot of difficulty as it is: can the technology really improve my life or will it simply add another layer of difficulty before its purported benefits make themselves felt?
"Booxter gathers book information from various sources on the internet to allow you to view, edit, sort, categorize, export, and print books of interest to you."
Hey, wait just a minute: what about slicing, dicing and julienne cuts? But I digress.
Oh, just check it out for yourself here and see what you think.
I must say, the reviews on the website are really sensational.
They make mine look positively shabby by comparison.
Hey, wait a minute: I don't have any reviews on my site... what am I thinking?
Australian Cake Slicer — One cake becomes two
Remember the last time you baked a cake and then tried to cut it into two layers before adding the frosting?
Sure, frosting covers a multitude of cutting sins and gross ineptitude on your part — hey, come on, it's me who's talking to you, you don't have to pretend as you do with everyone else — but wouldn't it be wonderful to have two beautiful halves to frost before you begin?
Now you can.
From the geniuses of the Southern Hemisphere comes this formidable invention (above — not below!).
The handle is white acrylic and connects to an adjustable–height sawtooth blade to get things started properly; a tough, dental–floss–like cord finishes the job.
Not recommended for wet work.
$9.95 (U.S.) here.